top of page

At School: Color Coding the Questions

questions colored.jpg

Strategy: "Red, White, Blue, and Gold question sticks"

Rationale: How can we tell if students understand what they are reading? We ask them questions. As the level of questioning increases, so does the level of understanding. As Rachel Billmeyey states, "Thought-provoking questions can transform students from passive learners to active, curious learners, whether the questions and answers and overt or covert" (2006, pg. 131). In turn, students must learn to generate higher level questions themselves in order to monitor their understanding and infer complex concepts within the text, which often connects them to the themes and ideas that go beyond the text itself. Teaching students concrete strategies for generating questions will make this level of understanding accessable to them.

Content/Grade: This can be adapted to any grade level and any subject. I used this lesson for a sixth grade class.

Learning Targets:

  • Identify and write four types of questions when reading (right there, think and search, author and you, and on my own)

  • Apply questioning strategies effective readers use to improve comprehension while reading

How I used this strategy:

1. For this lesson, begin by asking students when we ask questions when reading. Write on the board, "before....during...after" and categorize their reasons for asking questions.

2. After setting forth our focus for today's lesson, introduce the background information needed for the reading we will be doing. Instruct students to come up with three questions after reading a portion of the passage.

3. Introduce the four types of questions using the red, white, blue, and gold codes. Emphasize the "blue ribbon" and "gold star" status of upper level questions.


4. Model each type of question and students share what we came up with.

  • Example model questions (from Spririt Animals passage):

  • Right There: What kind of animal is Uraza?

  • Think and Search: What caused Uraza to attack?

  • Author and Me: Based on the passage, do you think Uraza should have reacted they way she did?

  • On My Own: If you were desperate for help, would you approach a dangerous animal?

5. Students color-code their own questions. Use think-pair-share strategy to discuss their coding.

6. After students share their questions and codes, they do pair readings with another portion of the passage. Students read with their partners and come up with red, white, blue, and gold questions, which will be written on colored strips of paper.


7. Put the questions together and sit in a circle to discuss questions as a whole class. Students go around the circle, each choosing a color-coded question to begin discussing.

8. Independent practice: Students continue to read the story/passage, writing down color-coded questions as they go. Discussion can continue the following day.

9. Exit ticket: What are the four types of questions? How does asking questions improve our understanding of the text.

How you can adapt it:

*This activity works for any course content. Teaching students to ask different types of questions will help them understand the text on a deeper, more meaningful level.

* Provide students with a question stem handout to help them come up with questions.

*Write half-written questions for the students to complete.

Examples: What kind of animal....? If you were.....? What caused Uraza to....?

Adapted from the following source:

Billmeyer, Rachel. (2006) Vol. 2: Strategies to Engage the Mind of the Learner, 2nd edition.

Helpful links to other teacher's great resources:

ReadWriteThink is my go to for many wonderful educational resources. Here is an explanation of the question types- QAR Stems

Another excellent handout for students- QAR Stems for Students

(Search result documents are copyrights of the respective website owners.)

Who dares to teach

must never cease to learn.

~John Cotton Dana

Follow Me
  • Twitter Basic Black
Recent Posts
bottom of page